Land Treatment: An Alternative Technology for Wastewater Management

by Charles E. Pound, (M.ASCE), Vice-Pres.; Metcalf & Eddy, Palo Alto, Calif.,
Sherwood C. Reed, (M.ASCE), Environmental Engr.; USACRREL, Hanover, New Hampshire,
Ronald W. Crites, (M.ASCE), Project Mgr.; Metcalf & Eddy, Palo Alto, Calif.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1978, Vol. 48, Issue 6, Pg. 98-102

Document Type: Feature article


The 1977 Clean Water Act provides some strong incentives for increasing the use of less costly, less energy intensive technology for municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Specifically, there are two strong incentives for using alternative or innovative technology: a 15% cost edge on cost effectiveness (i.e. life-cycle costs can be 15% above those for conventional alternatives and still be considered cost-effective); and 10% bonus on construction grants (i.e. 85% vs. 75%). Land treatment can offer savings in construction costs and energy compared to advanced wastewater treatment. The biggest savings is in operations and maintenance costs. Only 350 out of 2700 projects funded since 1968 have included land treatment. Given the benefits of land treatment (where treated sewage is applied to the land), why has the response been disappointing? The basic training of civil engineers has not included design of land treatment systems. Design of such systems requires knowledge of geology, soil science, and agronomy, disciplines not available in the typical civil engineering office. The biggest obstacle is overly restrictive guidelines and design standards.

Subject Headings: Construction costs | Soil treatment | Land use | Wastewater treatment | Waste management | Municipal wastewater | Water treatment plants | Clean Water Act

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